Had your 5 a day today? Ate your combination of red, green and yellow fruit and veg? Had a healthy whole grain free range chicken sandwich washed down with some fruit flavoured spring water? Excellent. Recycled all the plastic bags and bottles that all that fruit and veg came in? Fantastic! You’re a winner, a star on the way to a long and healthy life. As you’re munching your way through this healthy lifestyle option, your pepper salad and whole meal pasta, have you thought how easy it would be to buy it all locally? Not locally as in from your local supermarket, or even locally from your local green grocer, but locally as in grown locally in your local area, by people who send their children to the local school and use the same doctor as you? Now that’s a bit of a problem for most of us, isn’t it?
In my greengrocer’s today (and I know I’m lucky to have a greengrocer in my town), I could buy Spanish onions, Italian squashes, Polish tomatoes, Kenyan beans and Egyptian potatoes. I could not buy West Somerset beans, carrots, onions or tomatoes. I couldn’t even find Somerset grown vegetables. The nice girl I asked said that it’s all sourced locally: “We get it from the supplier in Taunton…” and I wanted to cry. I wanted to cry because it’s such a waste. Not having locally grown produce in our shops wastes time, money and fuel bringing food in from other areas. It leaves us at risk of rising prices and food shortages. Imagine how irritating it would be if all the shops had problems sourcing food because there was a fuel shortage or worse, a food shortage.
As December 25th approaches, there are lots of opportunities to buy our Christmas fare locally. Look for suppliers of local meat, poultry, puddings and cakes instead of heading for the supermarket. As well as supporting local producers we will be eating healthier, less processed food that hasn’t travelled half way across the world.
West Somerset should be able to produce a huge quantity of our own food. We have good soil, good climate, and lots of agricultural land and machinery. We also have a rural and agricultural skills base, with the West Somerset Community College farm and just slightly out of our area the old Cannington college and Brymore school, should we find that we need more specialist horticultural skills. Small growers need customers right through the year to maintain their income and keep on their staff, even when all they can grow is boring old cabbages. So find your local suppliers, join a veg box scheme which allows the grower to plan what he produces, encourage farmers to diversify into horticultural crops, insist on British in the grocers, and explain why you want to eat local food. Because one day through climate change, rising prices or fuel shortages we will need to be able to produce more of our own food, and if we can’t do it now when it’s easy, we will really struggle when times are more difficult.